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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Apr 24;109(17):6602-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1203333109. Epub 2012 Apr 13.

Reassessment of the 2010-2011 Haiti cholera outbreak and rainfall-driven multiseason projections.

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  • 1Laboratory of Ecohydrology, School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Global Health Institute, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.


Mathematical models can provide key insights into the course of an ongoing epidemic, potentially aiding real-time emergency management in allocating health care resources and by anticipating the impact of alternative interventions. We study the ex post reliability of predictions of the 2010-2011 Haiti cholera outbreak from four independent modeling studies that appeared almost simultaneously during the unfolding epidemic. We consider the impact of different approaches to the modeling of spatial spread of Vibrio cholerae and mechanisms of cholera transmission, accounting for the dynamics of susceptible and infected individuals within different local human communities. To explain resurgences of the epidemic, we go on to include waning immunity and a mechanism explicitly accounting for rainfall as a driver of enhanced disease transmission. The formal comparative analysis is carried out via the Akaike information criterion (AIC) to measure the added information provided by each process modeled, discounting for the added parameters. A generalized model for Haitian epidemic cholera and the related uncertainty is thus proposed and applied to the year-long dataset of reported cases now available. The model allows us to draw predictions on longer-term epidemic cholera in Haiti from multiseason Monte Carlo runs, carried out up to January 2014 by using suitable rainfall fields forecasts. Lessons learned and open issues are discussed and placed in perspective. We conclude that, despite differences in methods that can be tested through model-guided field validation, mathematical modeling of large-scale outbreaks emerges as an essential component of future cholera epidemic control.

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